Alexandria Virginia Walking Tour
This extended tour of Alexandria includes over two dozen landmarks including numerous museums.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War is located in the burial yard adjacent to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. In 1826, workers discovered the body of a man wearing a Revolutionary uniform during renovation and expansion of the Roman Catholic Church next door. The soldier’s body was reburied in the cemetery of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House but remained unmarked for years. Knowledge of the burial site was only kept alive by a handful of congregation members who would sporadically place flowers at the grave site. In contrast to the well-known Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, this lesser known gravesite and memorial is only visited by a handful of people each day.
The George L. Seaton House is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and resides in the second oldest African American neighborhood in this area, Hayti. This two-story brick building was built around 1861-1866. The property is named after prominent African-American community leader George Lewis Seaton, who purchased the house on April 14, 1866. Historical artifacts representing the community of Hayti have been discovered by archaeologists. The property, along with its artifacts, resemble the life of free Blacks in Alexandria in the mid-19th century. In 2004, this property was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
The Basilica of St. Mary is home to the very first Catholic parish founded in the Commonwealth of Virginia and West Virginia (they were one state until 1863). The parish was established in 1795 as the Church of St. Mary by the Very Reverend Francis Ignatius Neale, S.J., who was also the President of Georgetown College (now university) and the Pastor of Holy Trinity Church (est. 1787). President George Washington, who became aware of efforts to establish a Catholic parish in 1788, donated funds to the endeavor. The land on which the first church building stood is now the basilica's cemetery, which was the first Catholic cemetery in Virginia. As the first Catholic parish in the Commonwealth, St. Mary's served as the "mother" church to other Catholic parishes in Virginia. As such, it was instrumental in growing Catholicism in the region.
George Washington and other residents of Alexandria endowed the Alexandria Academy as a subscription school that would also provide free education for as many poor and orphaned children as might be accommodated on the schools upper floor. The majority of students paid modest tuition and the school was open to boys and girls alike. Years later, the academy hosted a school for African Americans. However, the organization discontinued their support for Black education in 1847 in response to a special law passed by the state of Virginia that forbid teaching African Americans to read-even those who were not enslaved. During the Civil War, the building became home to a small hospital and a s school for African Americans.
The Beulah Baptist Church is a historic Baptist church in Alexandria, Virginia. Built in 1863, the Beulah Baptist Church served as Alexandria’s first African American church after the occupation of the city by the Union army in 1861. Additionally, it was a center of theological education as well as a pioneer for African American education in Alexandria. On June 17th, 1986, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on November 6th, 1986, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Odd Fellows Hall is a historic hall of the Odd Fellows society, this one located in Alexandria, Virginia. The original building was built in 1864, and in 1870, it was expanded upon to reach the size the hall currently is. Additionally, the hall is particularly interesting because it allowed African Americans access and membership in the organization, where other social organizations of the time would not. On September 10th, 2003, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on January 16th, 2004, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Home to Alexandria’s oldest African American congregation, Alfred Street Baptist Church has long served as a center of the religious, educational, and social life of the city's Black community. The church was founded in 1818 in the Bottoms, a neighborhood that was home to many former slaves and free people of color prior to the Civil War. Alfred Street Baptist Church was first known as First Colored Baptist Church.
The Dr. Albert Johnson House is a historical home in Alexandria, Virginia, in the Bottoms neighborhood. Built at some point during the 19th century, the building is noted for being the home of African American Physician, Dr. Albert Johnson. It underwent structural renovation in 1974. On September 10th, 2003, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on January 16th, 2004, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Friendship Fire Company was the first volunteer fire-fighting company in Alexandria, VA, and the Friendship Firehouse Museum is dedicated to preserving its memory. The Museum also houses historical fire-fighting equipment and memorabilia, including a 19th century suction engine and hose carriage.
The Bayne-Fowle House is a historic home in Alexandria, Virginia. Built in 1854 for merchant William Bayne, the home was known for its impressive interior architecture, as well as its occupancy by Northern troops during the American Civil War. On June 17th, 1986, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on November 6th, 1986, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1871, the Bayne-Fowle House has continuously been a private residence.
The Alexandria Lyceum is a building with one of the most storied histories in the city of Alexandria. Built in the Greek Revival style, the Lyceum has seen use as a home, a hospital, a lecture hall, and today, a museum of the history of the city of Alexandria. In addition to being an extensive city museum, the Lyceum is also available to rent for private events, echoing its original function as a lecture hall in years gone by.
This Confederate monument was created in 1889 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and was one of the early monuments to the Confederacy created in the decades after the war. Despite the fact that many residents of Alexandria supported the Union, and despite the fact that Union troops the day after Virginia seceded, the statue has stood at this location for over a century. The names of about a hundred of Alexandria's Confederate dead are engraved on the seven-foot bronze statue, which was designed by M. Casper Buberl. The artist made the statue to resemble a Southern soldier reflecting on the loss of his many comrades at the surrender ceremony at Appomattox Courthouse. In this regard, the monument is unique from many other Confederate statues that present Confederate generals on horseback as part of an attempt to erase the history of the Confederacy's defeat in the Civil War and the resulting period of Reconstruction.
Over 240 years old, the Murray-Dick-Fawcett House is one of Alexandria's oldest historic 18th-century homes. Compared to other structures from the period, it is believed to be the least altered in the region of Northern Virginia. Historians consider it a microcosm of a single-family home of the period as it features a living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and slave or servants quarters all under one roof. An individual owns the home today as a private residence but the public is allowed to visit the house twelve times per year for special events.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a historic Episcopal church located in the Old Town area of Alexandria, Virginia. Built in 1818, the church is particularly significant for being the only nearly untouched Gothic Revival-style building designed by famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. On May 9th, 1985, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the church continues to serve and be a driving force in its community for its congregation.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum is a small, 1900 museum boasting a vast collection of botanicals, handblown glass, medical equipment, and more. Located in Old Town Alexandria, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary was opened in 1792 by Quaker pharmacist Edward Stabler, and throughout many of the major historical events in US history, from the War of 1812 up until 1933, the Apothecary withstood and remained the center of daily life in Alexandria. Some of its famous customers included George and Marsha Washington and Robert E. Lee. Nowadays, the small museum on South Fairfax Street holds more than 8,000 objects, exploring not only the history of the apothecary practice but also the life and history of Alexandria. In fact, many original furnishings as well as patent medicines, potions, and herbs still remain in place.
The Fairfax-Moore House is a historic home located in Alexandria, Virginia. Built in the late 18th century, it is unknown whether it was built by George William Fairfax or John Harper, as no specific record of the building’s construction seems to exist. When it was purchased in 1929 by Gay Montague Moore, a preservationist, she made the house her home and her headquarters for a preservationist movement in the city of Alexandria. On April 17th, 1990, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on January 17th, 1991, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Constructed originally as a bank in 1852, the Athenaeum is a building with a history of serving many purposes. Though it is currently the home of the North Virginia Fine Arts Association, it has been used as a bank, office space, and a base of operations for a pharmacy business. Today, the Athenaeum houses many different forms of art, allowing visitors to enjoy a wide variety of artistic exhibits and performances.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center, a public studio space with associated galleries, workshops, art classes, and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, is on the site of the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station, a formerly top-secret munitions factory constructed in 1918. The NTS produced almost 1,000 submarine torpedoes (Mark XIV) during World War II.
This beautiful Georgian mansion stands proud in downtown Alexandria, dominating the area’s landscape since the very beginnings of this city. Shortly after its construction was finished, the Carlyle House was already a center of the Alexandrian social, economic, and political life and has remained an important element of the city ever since.
The Bank of Alexandria is a historic bank in Virginia’s city of Alexandria. Built in 1807, it is noted that it was possibly Alexandria’s most expensive building at the time of its construction. In the 1840s, it was converted for use as the Mansion House Hotel. On April 17th, 1973, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on June 4th, 1973, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Older than the town where it sits, Alexandria’s Market Square has been a place for people to come together for over 250 years. Originally a farmer’s market—a role that it still plays nowadays—Market Square has always been a key player in the public life of Alexandria.
Built approximately in 1785 by John Gadsby, this tavern played a part of the lives of our founding fathers. Founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington are recorded as visitors of this tavern. This tavern survived the Revolutionary War completely intact, and flourished in the new country. The tavern was transformed into a museum during the twentieth century after facing the possibility of demolition. The site remains a part of the historic district of the city Alexandria, and still functions both as a restaurant and as a museum. Restored to the similar internal structures of the original facility, the tavern represents the relationship the past has with the present.
The four townhouses were built in 1850 by Moses Hepburn, the wealthiest free African American in Alexandria. He was born as a slave in 1809 and freed seven years later. He was also one of the nine founders of Davis Chapel, later Roberts Memorial United Methodist Church, the oldest African American church building in Alexandria (1834). The houses were constructed somewhere after he purchased the property in 1850. Located in the middle of the block, they are relatively modest in scale when compared to the other existing houses on the street. The houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Christ Church is one of the best-preserved 18th century late-Georgian churches in the country. Despite slight modifications made during restorations over the years, both the exterior and interior are in their original condition, and the church has been in continuous use since it opened in 1773. Numerous historic figures attended services in the church, including George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The building was added to the List of National Historic Landmarks in Virginia in 1970.
Like many buildings in the historical district in Alexandria, Virginia, the Lloyd House remains a part of American history. The house is both local and national significant. The house was constructed in 1796-1797 by John Wise, a prominent entrepreneur in Alexandria during this period, which also constructed the Gadsby’s tavern (1785) and operated another late 18th century tavern still standing today at the corner of North Fairfax and Cameron Streets. Before his death, George Washington was a guest in the house on occasion. John Lloyd, a wealthy merchant bought the house in 1833 and was owned by the Lloyd family until 1930s.Today the Lloyd House houses the administrative offices of the Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA), and the first floor and the yard are available for rentals and can accommodate up to 100 people, depending on the occasion. Constructed in the late eighteenth-century Georgian architectural style the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1976. It is and one of five buildings of the Georgian style remaining in the city.
In August 1939, attorney Samuel W. Tucker orchestrated what appears to be the earliest organized civil rights sit-in at this library. At that time, Alexandria was a city of 33,000 and had only one public library. Although local Black residents vote and paid their taxes (some of which went to financing the library after it had been built), they were denied entry to the white-only library. Attorney Samuel W. Tucker was 26 in the summer of 1939, and to protest the library's white-only policy, he prepared a select group of men for an act of civil disobedience. On Friday, August 21, 1939, Tucker's group entered the public library despite the library's policy of only serving white patrons. They were denied service and told to leave, but they sat down and read until the police arrived and arrested the men for trespassing. The situation was virtually ignored by most newspapers at the time, and Samuel Tucker continued fighting against segregation and intolerance thereafter, becoming a prominent voice in the Civil Rights era. He later served as the lead lawyer for the NAACP and argued several cases before the the Supreme Court.
The Lee-Fendall House is a historic home-turned-museum and garden in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Built in 1785, the home has seen numerous owners throughout its lifespan. Currently, the home operates as the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden, specializing in the history of the house and Virginia. On April 17th, 1979, it was designated on the Virginia Landmark Register, and on June 22nd, 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.